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One of my habits during this quarantine has been to spend inordinate amounts of time on Pinterest. I don’t think I’m alone in the adoption of that habit. Needless to say, I created a board called “Quarantine,” and at first I just saved memes about this whole situation that made me laugh. Then I found my way to pinning boredom-buster ideas and suggestions about how to stay sane and occupied. But over a month and a half into this, that board has become a place for me to save pins related to gratitude. It might seem like a weird connection, but to me, now seems like the perfect time to really focus on the good things around me.
I feel like gratitude has become one of those buzzwords that people talk about but don’t put much thought into.
By the looks of the internet, gratitude journals seem almost trendy (and it’s totally a trend I can get behind!) I just think it’s important to know why there’s been such a push for people to practice being thankful and why it’s such a positive thing in terms of our mental health.
Put plainly, practicing gratitude is good for us.
It can lead to increased levels of well-being and happiness, improved optimism, and lower stress levels (source). And don’t we all want that?
It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy; when you’re more grateful and optimistic, you’ll be more likely to do things in your life that support being grateful and optimistic. For example, if you start the day by appreciating your body that can move and breathe and house your mind, you’ll most likely make choices that are healthy for your body and you might even feel more confident in it.
You might have heard this mentioned before if you know anything about the Law of Attraction, which says we attract what we think about.
Meaning, if we’re thinking about what we’re thankful for, we’ll attract more things to be thankful for. Regardless of your spirituality, there’s something to this notion because if you’re more aware of the positive aspects of your life, you’ll naturally be attuned to more positivity.
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Gratitude begets gratitude.
Not to mention that gratitude is simply a rewarding emotion!
It’s definitely hard right now with all that’s going on; it seems like all we hear about is bad news, and it obviously gets to us and impacts our mindsets.
-So you might be asking yourself what there even is to be thankful for.
The answer could be just the mundane little things you come across in daily life.
Related: The Strength of Gratitude
Some examples for me are:
- The sunshine coming through my window in the morning.
- The first delicious cup of coffee to wake me up.
- The fact that I can video call my family and enjoy their company even miles away.
It could be more specific, like the fact that I’m so incredibly grateful that I can see my baby nephew over 300 miles away via video calling because my sister is home with him while I’m home too.
If you’ve been deeply impacted by the Coronavirus, this article isn’t to force you into practicing gratitude or make you feel like you have to.
You’re allowed to grieve. You’re allowed to be angry. And even if you don’t know anyone personally who’s gotten sick, still don’t minimize your suffering or feel guilty for being sad (that’s not the point). We’re all in a state of heightened stress. Our alarm systems are active simply because of the pandemic crisis, not to mention the change in pretty much every area of life, including routines and amount of structure in our days.
Now isn’t the time to be hard on ourselves.
It’s just that, if you are able, making the effort to search for things in life to be thankful for, you’ll most likely feel happier because being aware of the good around you makes you more likely to notice and enjoy other good things. It’s a cycle of gratitude and happiness, and it’s more powerful than we often think.
5 ways to practice gratitude during the Coronavirus Pandemic:
1. Start simple.
Begin with the obvious things to appreciate, like friends and family and the roof over your head.
When I make a point to practice gratitude, I sometimes get overwhelmed thinking I have to find things that are unique or different or mind-blowing.
But I’ve realized that if thinking too far into it makes me stressed, it defeats the purpose. There’s beauty in mundane things. And more than that, when I start simple, I find myself finding bigger, more intricate reasons to be thankful.
2. Use an actual journal to record it all.
It’s fine to merely tell yourself what you’re thankful for (maybe while drinking your morning coffee or sitting outside in the sunshine), but why not keep a physical journal? You can make it pretty if that helps! I’m a sticker-lover, and I’ve also been known to hoard colored markers.
Making your gratitude journal unique makes recording the happy feelings of gratitude more special.
It also makes it that much more of an experience to go through it and reread all the positive things in your life. In fact, I recommend doing that during times of particular struggles.
3. Use your phone if you prefer.
If you’re more into the digital world, the notes app in your phone is a perfect place to jot down what you find yourself thankful for.
This might be beneficial for you if you plan on listing things throughout the whole day, whenever they pop into your head.
Chances are, you’ll have your phone on you wherever you are. There are also gratitude journal-specific apps to download. Or you can even create a specific album in your photos where you keep pictures of things that you’re grateful for. A photo gratitude journal is great for combining a positive outlook with creativity.
4. Talk about gratitude with other people.
Even when I start simple, I still sometimes get stuck. Sometimes it’s just because things in my life get complicated, and sometimes it’s because I fall into the trap of a negative attitude.
Talking to other people is helpful in general and talking to them about gratitude ensures that the conversation is healthy and focused on positivity.
It’s also nice to hear what other people have to appreciate in their own lives, which often makes me more appreciative of what’s in mine. And while you’re at it, reach out to those you’re thankful for and tell them how you’re thankful for them.
Spreading happiness is part of the process of gratitude!
5. Choose a different emotion.
If gratitude seems too out of reach, focus on another positive emotion like hope or passion. Write out a few things to be hopeful about, or brain dump a few things you’re passionate about. It gets you into the same rhythm as being thankful and has the same mental health benefits.
Having a positive mindset can have a powerful impact on your overall mental state.
Making gratitude part of your regular daily routine, while challenging, is worth trying.
Once it becomes habitual it will be easier, so you’ll reap its benefits without much effort. Besides, the world is harsh enough. We don’t need to make it worse on ourselves.
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